Visual information processing during controlled hypoglycaemia in humans

R. J. McCrimmon, I. J. Deary, B. J. P. Huntly, K. J. MacLeod, B. M. Frier
1996 Brain  
A general impairment of cognitive performance occurs during acute insulin-induced hypoglycaemia, but little objective evidence is available for disruption of more specific cognitive processes. The effect of controlled hypoglycaemia on the early stages of visual information processing and contrast sensitivity was examined in a homogeneous group of 20 nondiabetic human subjects. Hypoglycaemia caused a significant disruption in general cognitive performance as assessed by a digit symbol task (P <
more » ... .001) and the trail making B task (P < 0.05). Hypoglycaemia also produced a highly significant deterioration in performance on all of the visual information processing tasks, namely inspection time (IT) (P = 0.01), visual change detection (VCD) (P < 0.005) and visual movement detection (VIVID) (P < 0.005). A significant deterioration in contrast sensitivity was observed during hypoglycaemia (P < 0.005). In contrast, no significant effect of hypoglycaemia was demonstrated on standard clinical measures of visual acuity or stereoscopic vision. Thus, although hypoglycaemia caused no detectable deterioration in visual acuity as measured by Snellen-type tests, a marked deterioration occurred in the speed of visual information processing and in contrast sensitivity. As many decisions are made under conditions of limited perceptual time and low visual contrast (e.g. when driving), the disruptive effect of moderate insulin-induced hypoglycaemia on visual perception will have important practical implications in diabetic humans exposed to this metabolic stress. The present results are congruent with other evidence which shows that the early stages of visual information processing are susceptible to deterioration by general cerebral insults.
doi:10.1093/brain/119.4.1277 pmid:8813290 fatcat:vws72zne7zbz5oacn3eeqahcii